Future Imaging of a Sustainable University of Waterloo Campus

Vision statement: "Meeting the needs of the present University of Waterloo (UW) campus without compromising the needs of the future."

Our vision of a sustainable UW campus sprouts from our desire to improve certain practices on campus. The characteristics of our vision can be divided into four main categories: disposable materials, lawn maintenance, energy use and transportation. Within each category, we have listed some characteristics that pertain specifically to that group. The following are the features we would like a sustainable UW campus to have:

This image represents an ideal UW campus. On this campus, not only do we recycle waste, but we also reduce our consumption and reuse products. Each individual takes control of energy consumption on campus and contributes his/her own efforts to reducing energy use. Since there will be no vehicles on campus and the use of bicycles are encouraged, the total CO² emissions emanating from the UW campus into the atmosphere will be greatly reduced. To achieve our goal of a sustainable UW campus, there needs to be many changes, but most importantly an increase in environmental awareness.

Indicators of Sustainability

There are several indicators that can be used to determine whether or not the UW campus has become sustainable. Both short-term and long-term studies must be conducted to determine the following:

Individual short-term studies will determine how sustainable the UW campus is. There are many components to a sustainable campus, such as pesticide use. Each short-term study must thoroughly examine and solve the problems associated with each component. The UW campus will be declared sustainable when 100% of the individual short-term studies indicate that significant action and improvements have been made to each component.

Long-term studies will also need to be conducted because our views and opinions of a sustainable UW campus will most likely continue to change. These studies will determine where improvement can be made such as improving energy efficiency (perhaps to 100%) in the future. What we consider sustainable today will most likely not be sustainable in 10 years due to technological innovation and increased education. Therefore, it is possible that perceptions of absolute sustainability of the UW campus will never be achieved.


When the University of Waterloo reaches the level of sustainability, it will look very different both indoors and outdoors from how it currently looks.

Within the University buildings, we now see the extensive use of artificial lighting and virtually no natural lighting used as the primary source of illumination. In a sustainable community, this natural light would be harnessed and used to reduce the dependence on incandescent and fluorescent fixtures which consume electrical energy. In addition, each university building would have solar panels to harness the energy naturally provided by the sun.

University buildings contain bulletin boards which are plastered with multi-coloured posters advertising upcoming events, rooms for rent, courses, etcetera. Handouts are provided to students in classes, and additional readings and course materials often must be obtained from graphic services. This use of paper is unnecessary and could be eliminated through the greater use of computers as educational tools. Energy efficient 14" SVGA monitors should be installed along with more computers to increase the availability for students as there would now be a greater demand for computer resources as people are forced to read more documents "online" rather than on paper. Computer education is essential for this to proceed, and every student should be required to take an introductory course in computer usage. This course should teach the basics of how to use the computer networks on campus, and also how to read documents, and submit reports online.

Outdoors, the university would be drastically changed. As automobiles have been eliminated from Campus, there would be no need for large asphalt parking surfaces. Pathways made from materials which promote water penetration should be used. A solid surfaced material would promote easier winter maintenance, so permeable asphalt materials should be explored.

Turf grass would be significantly reduced thereby eliminating the need to spray pesticides and herbicides to maintain this mono-culture. Remaining grass would be maintained solely by cutting with human propelled reel-lawn mowers, making gasoline use unnecessary. Areas which formerly contained turf grass should be planted with native species, and old field species should be allowed to dominate.


In pursuit of a sustainable UW environment, a complete overhaul of the current administrative system may seem ideal or effective. However, the complete eradication of paper usage is improbable and almost impossible to implement. Justifiably, alternative methods must be sought. As we enter a new age in technological know-how, current computer usage has taken on a global existence and has become a permanent appliance in many households and offices. The past practice of hand-written mail via the post, is now being replaced with the rapidity of electronic mail. It is in this current development, that we strongly recommend that the Co-op system undertake.

The paper-wasting activities of job postings and resume photocopying, could all be minimised by placing it on the Internet or some other established system. Consequently, it would enable prospective employers and students to access the system with much efficiency - paperless. Similarly, student and staff schedules and courses could be posted via the computer. While already gaining popular notion globally, an "electronic" classroom should not be dismissed. Lecture notes could be displayed over a computer screen, and overheads could eventually be made obsolete over time. The transition to a "paperless" communication system should not be viewed as being difficult, but an alternative that is already making inlets into mainstream society.

With respect to lawn maintenance, there should be an increase in naturalised lawn areas at the expense of turf grass. This will reduce our dependency on chemicals ( i.e. herbicides and pesticides) as well as the need for maintenance.

A better use of timers and motion sensors could facilitate efficient light and heat usage. All faculty and staff who have access to lighting utilities should learn how to use the lighting in lecture halls. Training courses could be provided on campus specifically for this purpose. Furthermore, user-friendly light switches should be installed.

No motorized vehicles should be allowed on campus. To accomplish this, parking fees should be raised dramatically to discourage car use, and encourage the use of public transportation. Improvements to and the addition of bike paths and locking facilities will encourage students to explore alternatives to automobile dependence.

A broad-based approach must be employed to address each of the four areas of concern. In line with the definition of sustainability, accountability must be made for overlap and interconnectedness between each of the four areas. These recommendations are not meant to be stringent but as a platform for change.

Last updated: May 21, 1997 S.T.